Tag Archives: Cinema

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Sin-City-A-Dame-to-Kill-For-Banner

With Marvel and DC comics competing with movie renditions of graphic novels, it’s easy to forget that there are more than two publishers. Dark Horse is responsible for bringing Frank Miller’s Sin City series into print and in 2005, the a few of the stories were brought to the big screen. The movie was received well enough to merit a sequel almost 9 years later. A Dame to Kill For brought back several familiar faces such as Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke to reprise their roles but also brought in new actors. The nice thing about Sin City 2 was that Frank Miller was able to write new stories exclusively for the movie so fans of the graphic novel would be able to watch something fresh.

Just like the first Sin City, A Dame to Kill for was split into a few segments with the main story in the middle. The visual black and white style from the first movie was kept for the sequel although there was a lot more use of “highlighted” colors in this one. For the most part, the movie stayed true to its printed origins. Although it was a nice touch for those that had actually read the stories and recognized the panels from the graphic novels, it turned into a problem in some instances.

Because the movie is split into segments that contain distinct and sometimes exclusive characters, the following overview will also be split into segments.

JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY NIGHT

The opening segment of A Dame to Kill For and presumable a small setup to show moviegoers what they were in for. In this story Marv (Mickey Rourke) wakes from a car crash to find the bodies of several young men around him. Due to a certain condition that he has, he isn’t able to recall what events led to him and he begins to retrace his steps.

Just like in the first Sin City movie Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller don’t skimp out on the violence of this segment. The fights that ensue as Marv tries to recall his memory are done fairly well although a little confusing. It’s a nice taste of what A Dame to Kill For is going to bring but it’s far from being engaging. Mickey Rourke, just like in the first movie, does an excellent job at playing Marv throughout the entirety of the movie. The real problem that arises from this segment is the whole “recalling” portion of the movie. Marv spends a nice chunk of time remembering what happened through the use of voice over narration and despite the nice little effects used to sort of ease the viewer, it was pretty boring to watch.

A DAME TO KILL FOR

The main story in this movie was dedicated to this one. Personally, when I read this graphic novel I wasn’t to impressed with the story. Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) is a private detective who gets an unexpected plea from help from his ex lover Ava Lord (Eva Green). She coaxes Dwight to help her escape from her crazy husband Damian Lord (Marton Csokas) but before he can help he also has to get through Damian’s monstrous chauffeur Manute (Dennis Haysbert) as well as some police officers that are caught by Ava Lord’s seduction.

dwight-comparison-3

Clive Owen (left) and Josh Brolin (right) next to the novel’s rendition of Dwight

Due to the nature of the timeline of Dwight’s character, Josh Brolin was brought on board to replace Clive Owen.  In the graphic novel it is explained that McCarthy had to go through some reconstructive facial surgeries so it makes sense as to why Brolin was cast instead. His performance as Dwight wasn’t bad at all although it still bothers me that they didn’t bring in Clive Owen to play as McCarthy after the surgeries. Without that little detail it’s tough to even relate the characters from both movies let alone realize that they’re the same exact character. Eva Green also had a wonderful performance although her costume designs also helped sell the sleazy and manipulative Ava Lord. Despite this Eva Green might not have been the best actress for the role. She was certainly eye catching but there are several other actresses that might have fit the character a lot better. Manute is another major character in the Sin City universe and due to the death of Michael Clarke Duncan, Dennis Haysbert was brought on board to replace him. His acting was a little flat but Manute is a character that is better off being seen than heard and Haysbert didn’t do too bad.

manute-comparison

Manute: Michael Clarke Duncan (left), Dennis Haysbert (right)

Overall, A Dame to Kill For followed the graphic novel almost perfectly and that’s part of the why it wasn’t as interesting as it ought to have been. In comic book panels there are certain things that an author can get away with, one of these is when a character talks or thinks to himself. In this portion of the movie there was a lot of voice over narration that considerably slowed down the movie. Sure it was in the comic books but these voice over narrations were long enough to drag the viewer at out of the story. At one point it felt like I was just watching an audio book. The action that eventually took place on screen ended up being pretty campy (good for some people, bad for others). For a story line that was supposed to be the largest chunk of the movie, A Dame to Kill For was surprisingly underwhelming.

THE LONG BAD NIGHT

Fotor0412115212

The Long Bad Night is about a Johnny, a cocky and extremely lucky gambler, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who walks into the infamous Basin City in order to beat Senator Roark (Powers Booth) at a game of cards. When the Johnny humiliates Roark in front of his colleagues, he doesn’t take to kindly toward the young gambler and teaches him that trying to beat a Roark at his own game is dangerous.

Having seen Gordon-Levitt in movies like (500) Days of Summer or comedies such as That 70’s Show, its tough to picture him in a movie like Sin City but he pulls it off extremely well. Roles like this one make me believe that Gordon-Levitt is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood as of now. Powers Booth who reprises his role as Senator Roark also does a terrific job at portraying one of the most feared and respected men in Basin City. The tense moments that these two have on screen coupled with the peculiar story easily make this the best part of Sin City 2 despite the fact that there’s very limited violence in comparison with the rest of the film. If that wasn’t enough it was also entertaining to see Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Roger Rabbit) have a small part as well as a surprisingly well executed cameo from Lady Gaga.

NANCY’S LAST DANCE

Yet another original story by Frank Miller that gives some closure to the story of Nancy Callahan. Years after the suicide of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Nancy (Jessica Alba) tries her best to get over his death and deal with her depression. She decides that her best bet to get over Hartigan’s death is to kill Senator Roark (Powers Booth).

Nancy’s Last Dance might just be the second strongest story in the whole film. As a fan of the graphic novel, I was excited to finally get an ending to Nancy’s story in Sin City. I haven’t seen all of Jessica Alba’s movies but from what I can gather, this might have been one of her better acting performances. Her desperation and depression come across clearly and the build up to a showdown with Roark is engaging enough to keep the viewer’s attention. There were some strange things in this segment such as the whole ghost thing (Sixth Sense anyone?) but overall it was decent enough of a story that included minimal voice over narration.

Nancy Callahan and Marv

Nancy Callahan and Marv

One of the first rules of screenwriting that are taught is to never use voice over narration. Many successful movies have ignored this rule without much backlash but unfortunately Sin City 2 is not one of those examples. The movie overall is passable. Fans of the graphic novel may appreciate the new stories but the VO narration seems like overkill throughout many parts of the movie and frankly, it makes it a chore to watch. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller did a great job with the first Sin City but the sequel seemed to be missing a lot of the gruesome story and brutal action that made the first one so good. Every actor did a good job at playing their role but it still felt like the casting of the new characters left a lot to be desired.

TL;DR: There are very few reasons to watch this on the big screen (i.e. Jessica Alba, The Long Bad Night). With the side stories being a lot more entertaining than the main one, its hard to imagine that we’ll be getting another Sin City movie any time soon.

Rock-It Raccoon Rating: 5.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 45%

IMDB: 7.2/10

MetaCritic: 45/100

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

edge-of-tomorrow-poster

In the future, an alien race has made a devastating invasion on Earth. To combat the extraterrestrials, the military forces have developed exoskeletons in order to make their soldiers even more devastating. Despite all of this, the invaders decisively win almost every battle. William Cage (Tom Cruise), an army Major that has never been in combat, is assigned to be on the first wave of Allies that land in the next battle. Cage does his best to get out combat but ultimately dies in the front lines after a few minutes. After his death he wakes up to find himself out of combat back in boot camp. After a while, he realizes that he is stuck in a time loop that forces him to relieve his life from a certain point. After numerous attempts, Cage becomes increasingly more skilled at defeating the “mimics” and teams up with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) in order to find a way to defeat the invading alien race.

Director Doug Liman (Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) does a really good job for the most part. One of the scenes that caught my attention the most is when Cage is being dropped off into battle for the first time. Liman makes sure to make the audience feel the anxiety and stress that Cruise’s character feels during his first time being in the heat of action. As Cage repeats the same scenarios over and over the action begins to flow smoother as the character becomes more experienced with battle. Overall, Liman made the Groundhog Day-esque premise work really well with Edge of Tomorrow. The action was fast and enthralling and the comedy sprinkled throughout made the film feel fresh despite it being a repeat of a scene that had been seen before.

Funny, cowardly, determined are all words that can describe several scenes that Tom Cruise’s character is in. Edge of Tomorrow is proof that Mr. Cruise still has what it takes to be a lead actor in a Summer blockbuster film. After playing the damsel in distress in several movies, Emily Blunt shows that she has what it takes to play the bad-ass hero. Both actors played their roles brilliantly and although there were a few scenes that seemed a bit forced, they were quickly forgotten as the movie continued to increase the suspense.

Although a solid film, there were some things that I wish could have been explored more in depth such as the actual aliens. Despite spending most of the movie fighting the creatures, nobody seems to know much about them other than the broad facts. Then there’s the matter of how exactly the time loop is supposed to work or how far back he’s supposed to go after dying. These questions were all little things that bothered me but after taking everything into account, it doesn’t really change the fact that Edge of Tomorrow was simply a fun, action packed movie to watch.

TL;DR: Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt put on some solid performances in a very fun and clever  Summer movie.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

IMDB: 8.1/10

MetaCritic: 7.1/10

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie

Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi_Driver_poster

Taxi Driver tells the story of Travis Bickle(Robert De Niro), a Vietnam War veteran who is trying to live his life in the city. When he gets a job as a cab driver in New York he begins to form the idea that there needs to be someone who will rid the streets of malicious people. As he continues to isolate himself from others, he begins to make a plan to do something about the criminals on the streets. His main concern is freeing 12-year old Iris (Jodie Foster) from prostitution.

The story has a slow pacing but it is not without its purpose. Throughout the entire film, Martin Scorsese does an excellent job at portraying what Bickle’s life is like. In the beginning of the movie, Travis is shown to be very introverted and a seemingly nice guy. As the story continues to show his life, it becomes more and more obvious that this is a man who is alone in the world with only his dark thoughts to keep him company. Taxi Driver explores the gray areas of morals and the fine lines that exists between hero and criminal. This is not a story of a hero rising up to the challenge of fighting crime, it’s a snapshot of a man’s struggle with loneliness and descent into insanity.

A taxi cab, wandering eyes, and people walking around in the street. This is how the director decides to open his film. Everything about this small opening, music included, tells the audience right away that the main character is a lone wanderer. One of the things that makes this movie so great is how the movie is able to tell the story of the protagonist without the help of dialogue. The slow music, the shots of Travis Bickle walking on the street alone in New York City, or even just the way his one room apartment is shown as he sits down to write in his journal. All of these things convey the sense that the person we are seeing on screen is a lonely individual.

Scorsese’s directing plays a big part in telling the story of Travis but it simply would not be the same without De Niro’s performance as the ex-marine. De Niro’s portrayal of the lone Travis Bickle is flawless. It is a challenge for anyone to try and show what a character is feeling with limited dialogue and De Niro makes it look easy. The way he tells his jokes and carries himself makes the audience grow a genuine like for his character. The likeable persona that De Niro portrays makes his on screen transformation into a vigilante even more shocking. Two other actors that also play an important part of this movie are Jodie Foster and Harvey Keitel. At only 12 years old, Jodie Foster plays the role of a underage prostitute and manages to reinforce the tone of the film. Harvey Keitel on the other hand puts on the role of the smooth talking pimp. Along with the rest of the cast, these 3 actors put on the memorable performance that make Taxi Driver such a unique film.

Taxi Driver is a phenomenal film that showcases Martin Scorsese’s phenomenal directing as well as Robert De Niro’s acting talent. The film itself may just be the best cross section of a character that has ever been done on screen. Little things such as the camera movements or small pieces of dialogue serve to show the viewer how everything looks through Travis’ eyes. The character development is not the only thing that makes Taxi Driver unique. It’s not often that a movie shows the rough side of a city like New York. The film does an excellent job of showing how dangerous the city can be during the night. This view of the city along with the violence of the film is one of the reasons crime movies became so popular in the United States. Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is not only one of the best movies of the 70’s it is an important part of American Cinema.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 9.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

IMDB: 8.4/10

MetaCritic: 93%

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

TGBH-launch-quad-1024x768

With a mega cast that includes Oscar nominated actors like Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton, The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly promised an entertaining time. The movie is small chronicle of Gustave M. (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge at one of the most renown hotels in the world. Although it follows Gustave, the story is told by Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) who worked as a lobby boy (Tony Revolori) in his youth and became the concierge’s apprentice. When Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), a hotel regular, is murdered, a series of events unfolds that has Gustave and his lobby boy on the run.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has a little sprinkle of everything placed throughout its story. Moments of humor, suspense, and romance are all carefully laid out and spread out enough to keep the movie fresh. Unlike other directors, Wes Anderson stayed focused on the story of the Grand Budapest and did not spend too much time giving screen time to the large amount of A-List actors that are in the film. Not only did this make the story run smoother, it kept the movie from feeling like it was dragging on too long. One of the more interesting choices that I noticed was giving Willem Dafoe’s character, Jopling, very little lines in the movie. As a villain, this limited dialogue helped emphasize the danger that the character represented to everyone else and worked wonderfully. The cast for this movie did not disappoint and no matter how small the role, it seemed as if every actor fit in perfectly into their roles.

Wes Anderson is a director known for his unique style of portraying characters and locations and Grand Budapest is not an exception. Just about every scene in the film looks as unique and interesting as the last. Everything from the hotel to the train that the characters are in have their own unique feel. This feel is not only because of the way the movie is shot but also because of the great score that Alexandre Desplat composed for the film. Every character, location, and event in the film has a certain charm that is not present in a lot of other movies.

It’s hard to watch a film by a director like Wes Anderson and not compare the Grand Budapest to the rest of his films but this might be his best movie. Of course, choosing his best movie comes down to preference but it is hard to deny that the Grand Budapest Hotel is some of his best work. With a moving story and his trademark look, Wes Anderson has created a story that is memorable and enjoyable to watch. Nothing feels out of place and for its running time of 100 minutes, it packs quite an array of thrills, laughs, and even a little heartbreak.

TL;DR: Some of Wes Anderson’s best work. Worth the price of admission.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 9.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

IMDB: 8.4/10

MetaScore: 87/100

 

3 Comments

Filed under 2015 Oscar Nominees, Movie

Philomena (2013)

philomena-movie-banner-new.jpg w=500&h=375

Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) is a woman who’s been keeping a secret for about 50 years. When she was younger she had a child out of wedlock, something that was looked down upon by her catholic community. She was forced by the church to put up her son for adoption and was never able to see him again. Years later Philomena is introduced to political journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) who is not too eager to find out what happened to Philomena’s son. Despite his reluctance, Sixsmith agrees to help Philomena because he needs to find a job.

This movie was packed full of charm and enough tragedy to make it a solid movie. Philomena never shows bitterness or resentment toward the nuns that mistreated her and I think that this triumph over evil is something that makes the movie unique. All too often we see the tale of the wronged punishing the person that wronged them but Philomena chooses to forgive. The fact that this movie didn’t tell the woman’s life story is a thing that I appreciated. This film stuck to the point and mainly stayed in the present to show us Phil’s reactions as she discovered more and more about her lost son. Of course I don’t think this was one of the most moving stories I’ve seen but it truly is a memorable one due to how endearing Philomena is.

Judi Dench’s performance as the lovable Philomena combined with Coogan’s portrayal of the relunctant (and weary) Sixsmith made them one of the most likeable onscreen duos in recent years. Strangely enough, I was surprised to find that this film was a lot funnier than I initially thought it would be. This is, I think, has to do with the excellent chemistry between Dench and Coogan. Of course, the audience would not have felt as bad for Philomena if it weren’t for Sophie Kennedy Clark who did a superb job as a younger version of Phil. All of this excellent acting was of course complemented by a superb soundtrack from Alexandre Desplat.

The only thing that really bothered me about this movie was that there was a couple times were product placement was blatantly obvious. To the credit of the director, Stephen Frears, or whoever was responsible, this actually tied into the story pretty well. Other than that there wasn’t any glaring mistakes or plot holes that would ruin this movie for anyone.

Philomena is an extremely enjoyable movie. Judi Dench’s performance will instantly draw you in while the sporadic comedy and story development will keep you interested. Having said this, the comedy in this movie isn’t completely overwhelming because this is still a story of discovery, not only for Philomena but also for Sixsmith.

TL;DR: Great movie with a great performance by both Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

IMDB: 7.9/10

Metascore: 76/100

Leave a comment

Filed under 2014 Oscar Nominees, Movie

Gravity

gravity-movie-poster

For months, the only images that were available of Gravity were that of Sandra Bullock hurtling through space. The amount of hype this movie received seemed unreal and it looked like Gravity would not be able to deliver. Once Alfonso Cuaron’s movie debuted however, it quickly climbed to be the #1 Box Office movie.

The plot to Gravity is not too strong. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are two astronauts that become stranded in space after flying debris destroys their shuttle. The two astronauts are not only cut off from communication to and from Earth, but they are left stranded in space with very limited oxygen and even more limited options. So right away this becomes a mash up of Cast Away (2000) and Apollo 13 (1995). Despite the weak plot, Cuaron does an excellent job of using great cinematic elements to complement the themes in the movie. Sandra Bullock also did a phenomenal job of portraying her character’s emotions throughout the film. Clooney also played to his strengths and actually fit into his character perfectly. This film being very character driven, having these actors play their parts well was important.

The visual elements of Gravity were breathtaking and I don’t think anyone can deny that. I had the privilege of watching it in IMAX 3D and I was not disappointed. I’m personally not fond of any movie that uses 3D but Gravity did not rely on it. The 3D element did not overpower the movie but rather, complemented it. The film would have been just as great if it had been in 2D.

Themes were the most important part of Gravity. If it weren’t for these themes that were placed across the movie, the visual effects and acting would not have saved this film. The main themes that caught my attention were that of survival and birth.

The opening line of the movie, if I recall correctly, was “Life in Space is Impossible.” This little line tells the viewer how much the odds are going to stack against the characters. Once the debris sets events in motion, the ordeals that the astronauts face seem unlikely and even impossible to overcome. But despite how impossible it may have seemed, life persisted to existed. This was not just a character’s journey to survive, it also seemed to parallel how mankind struggled to survive despite all odds placed against it.

maxresdefault

The next theme in the movie was that of (re)birth. This was probably the most prevalent of all themes in the movie. Ryan Stone (Sandara Bullock) has to deal with some inner demons throughout the plot. Eventually she begins to “let go” of her past and overcomes her struggles. This may not seem like such a deep theme but the way it’s presented is overwhelmingly beautiful. It begins with a shot of Sandra Bullock in a position that can no doubt be a comparison to a womb. After that there is a sort of growing phase where our character is faced with the choice of fighting for survival or facing death. This theme of birth, just like the theme of survival, beautifully continues until the end.

Gravity did not fail to live up to the hype that it got. It was not the most impressive plot but it was a great example of what can happen when there is a unison between themes and cinematography. Alfonso Cuaron did not just create a story of survival, he orchestrated an ode to mankind.

Rockit Raccoon Rating : 9

Rotten Tomatoes: 97 %

IMDB: 8.6/10

Metascore: 96/100

Leave a comment

Filed under 2014 Oscar Nominees, Movie

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

Image

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) is Guy Ritchie’s first feature film (as both writer and director). For people who aren’t familiar with the name, Guy Ritchie is the man responsible for directing the Sherlock Holmes films of 2008 and 2011. This film is also Jason Statham’s film debut. Unlike most of his other films however, Statham doesn’t play a martial arts expert.

The film itself follows a pretty big cast of characters that include four friends, thugs, a group of weed growers, loan sharks, and debt collectors. A high-stakes poker game hosted by “Hatchet” Harry (P. H. Moriarty) – the owner of a porn shop – triggers several events. After losing £500,000 in the poker game, four friends are forced to find a way to pay back the money to “Hatchet” Harry in a week before he sends out his debt collector, Big Chris (Vinnie Jones), to cut of their fingers. On their quest to gather the money, the group of friends will cross paths with a sociopath, a traffic cop, weed, antique guns, and more than a few crimes.

The plot of the film starts off in a very chaotic manner because of all the ongoing stories. As the movie progresses, all of these stories will collide and blend in a very nice manner. The humor scattered throughout the story keep it from turning into a dull crime film. It is also worth noting that although Lock, Stock… doesn’t have a lot of eccentric characters or superstar actors, this actually helps everything move forward more naturally and lets all of the character arcs play off of each other without staying on one person or group of people for too long. The grainy look of the film, whether it is done on purpose or not, also compliments the content of the flick.

Overall, a great first feature film for writer/director Guy Ritchie. It’s very tough not to compare it to Ritchie’s next film, Snatch. (2000), but if you haven’t seen Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, you’re missing out. The extreme violence, dark humor, and non-linear plot that mirrors Quentin Tarantino’s style, make this a very enjoyable movie.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 7

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

IMDB: 8.2/10

Metascore: 66/100

WARNING: If you’re not familiar with British Cinema or have trouble deciphering what people are saying, it would be well advised to watch this movie with subtitles.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie